May 31, 2012

Speed Date: Time Out by Jill Shalvis

The Deal: Mark Diego left Santa del Rey and became the youngest hockey coach in the NHL, but he never forgot his home town - even if he never wanted to go live there again - and so, when two of his players get in trouble and cause a PR nightmare, Mark decides he's going to take them back to Santa del Rey and teach them how to become role modals whether they want it or not.

On the other hand, Rainey never left Santa del Rey - a little town that has recently been hit hard by the fires and the economy - and now she helps run the North side recreation center along with her best friend Rick - who also happens to be Mark's brother.

She always had an unrequited crush on Mark - one that led her to the two most embarrassing moments of her life -so she's not exactly thrilled to have him back in town, and having  to work with him for the rest of the summer, particularly because he keeps invading her personal space and chasing off her dates. 

My Thoughts: Time Out was a really quick contemporary read, and though the characters weren't as developed as I would like, the story was very nice over all. Rainey and Mark are easily likable characters, and the fact that they have known each other forever helps to buy into the premise of the story - and the fact that they jump into bed fairly early on.

The story is a bit cliched - Rainey is really in love with Mark, has been for years, and Mark is a hot-shot guy who has never thought of settling down - but the writing was good and it didn't take that much time to read.

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

May 30, 2012

Book Review: Hollyweird by Terri Clark

At First Sight: Aly King needs something good happening in her life, she just hasn't been the same since her mom died a couple of years ago. So when she wins a contest to meet Paranormal P.I. star Dakota Danvers - which includes an all-expense paid trip to L.A. - Aly is ready to jump on a plane with her best friend Desi and have some fun, even if her dad is making her take along her older sister Missy as a chaperon. 

In L.A. Jameson is trying to get back into God's good graces and get his wings back. As a fallen angel, he's willing to do whatever it takes to take the "Fallen" out of the equation, even if that means going undercover as Dakota's personal assistant and try to stop his evil plots, since Dakota is Satan's son and all. 

Jameson wasn't planning on having to deal with Aly and Co. or with liking Aly so much, but his handler Mikey (a.k.a. Archangel Michael) tells him it's all in God's plan and so he goes along with it.

Second Glance: All in all, Hollyweird was a fun book to read. I liked all the characters - specially Jameson, though I don't think he was as developed as he could have been, I loved his conversations with Mikey and the text messages he got from God. The angels in this story seemed to have a great sense of humor, which I appreciated because I'm tired of mopey angels suffering all over books lately. And  as Daisy @Between the Pages mentions, I'm glad Jameson was only 19, he made a lot more sense that way and it took away the creepy-Edward factor. 

I also really liked Desi and Aly's relationship, these are two girls who have stuck together through thick and thin, even though they are very different from each other. Missy was a little more of a plot-device for me, she was a standard Diva-esque mean girl for a big part of the book so I was a bit meh about her, but she didn't bother me overly much. 

The plot was simple enough, and I thought it was OK for the most part, only that it felt a little rushed, particularly toward the end. Also, I felt like Aly and Jameson fell for each other rather quickly. 

On the other hand, I didn't find this book to be offensive in the religious aspect, at least I was able to take it in the spirit of fun, the way angels are portrayed and all, and I was raised by a hard-core catholic Grandmother; so Hollyweird gets props for that. 

Bottom Line: A quick, fun read, not my favorite book ever, but it's fluffy and funny and not too angsty though still paranormal.  

May 28, 2012

Book Review: Believe it Or Not by Tawna Fenske

So Not Digging This Cover*
At First Sight: Accountant Violet never wanted anything to do with her mother Moonbeam's psychic business. But when Moonbeam suffers a fall, and only agrees to have surgery when Violet promises to look after the business and keep Moonbeam's appointments, Violet is stuck playing the psychic and listening to 80's glam rock, courtesy of the bar next door and it's owner Drew. 

Drew knows his business is a little unusual - much as he likes to say his bar is just like any other, the place is most well known for it's male strippers nights - and he hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with Moonbeam, though they get along ok enough. 

But, when Violet comes to take over the place next-door for a while, Drew feels instantly drawn to her, even as he tells himself that a girl as straitlaced and 'normal' like Violet won't be interested in a strip-bar owner like himself.

The attraction is there, though. 

Second Glance: Believe it Or Not was a really fun read! Within a few pages I was laughing. Sometimes it was because of Moonbeam's hippie friends and others because of Drew's strippers, but I had a laugh all through this book. 

It had a lovely romantic-comedy-made-for-TV-movie quality to it (and I mean this in a really good way) because it was just good, campy fun. 

I like Violet and her tendency to blurt out strange factoids over everything and I found it to be an endearing quality, and I really thought Drew was a nice guy (though I found his love of cherry Coke a little strange, I have to admit). 

Bottom LineBelieve it Or Not is a really funny contemporary story, where the pages just fly by an you keep a smile on your face all the way through. 

Favorite Scene: "What seems to be the problem, Jamie?" Drew said, coming to seat beside him.
Jamie looked up at him, his eyes red-rimmed and goopy. Jesus, Drew thought. And women throw their panties at this guy?

"It's Sid," Jamie sniffled. "He called me a wuss."

"Right. Remember what we talked about with the sticks and stones...?"

"But it really hurt my feelings, boss." Jamie said, his expression so wounded that Drew couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Wel, as sorry as he could feel for a man who'd been named Mr. Oregon Bodybuilder for three out of the last five years.

"You have to get through this, Jamie," Drew soothed. "Those guys just tease you to get a rise out of you. If you don't let them ge you, the'll stop."

"But dancing is my art." he sniffled. "They don't understand how it wounds me when they make a mockery of something that's so emotionally valuable to me." 

"Hey," Drew said. "Remember those pretty girls in the front row last week? They could have tucked that hundred in anyone's shorts, but whose did they choose?"

Jamie smiled a little at that, "Mine." (...)

Then he trotted away, leaving Drew to stand there staring after him. "I should have been a preschool teacher." he muttered. 

*Re: Cover - I'm sorry, but if you're going to put a shirtless man on the cover, put one with a six-pack. This one looks like it got a beer gut if you look at it a certain way.

May 27, 2012

Book Gossip # 29 - Love and Other Perishable Items

I'm a huge fan of Laura Buzo's Good Oil, a book that for a really long time has only been available in Australia. But! It shall be published  in the US with the title Love and Other Perishable Items on December 11th, 2012. 

Which I totally wouldn't know if it weren't for my favorite penguin who is also a pirate, Sandy @ Pirate Penguin's Reads

Good Oil / Love and Other Perishable Items is one of the most honest, awesome books I've ever read and I'm so happy to see it crossing across the pond. Plus, it got a really lovely US Cover. 

Love is awkward, Amelia should know.  

From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It's problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia is 15.

Amelia isn't stupid. She knows it's not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia's crush doesn't seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?

Through a year of befuddling firsts—first love, first job, first party, and first hangover—debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.

May 26, 2012

Book Review: All-American Girl by Meg Cabot

In the spirit of the Meg-A-Readers Blog Hop, I'm going to be reviewing one book by Meg Cabot every sunday for the duration of the event!  

At First Sight: Samantha Madison didn't want to go to art class - since she already could draw perfectly well - but she had not choice. If it were up to Sam she would be home, wearing black and drawing pictures of celebrities in the company of various classmates, for a fee, of course. 

But, since her older sister Lucy told on her to their parents, art lessons it is. At first, Sam doesn't think the lessons with Susan Boone are going to be that bad, for something that she's beng forced into; but, after disastrous first lesson, Sam decides she's not going anymore. 

Thats why, that day, she was standing outside the Art study when the President of the USA stopped by - something not unusual when you live in Washington D.C. - and ducked into the bakery next door. She was also there when some random man pulled a gun and aimed at the President. 

Before she knew it, Sam had jumped the armed guy and become a national hero. 

So now she has to deal with her unrequited crush on Lucy's boyfriend Jack, and with Susan Boone trying to "Get Her To See!", but she also has to deal with the press, with her sudden popularity and with the president's son David - who seems to like her!

Second Glance: All-American Girl is a book that always makes me smile. I really like the whole hero stuff but mostly, I love the interaction between the three Madison girls: Lucy, Sam and Rebecca. I always find those parts to be the most fun. 

Sam is always making lists and talking about ska and, over all, she has her heart in the right place, even if she does let herself be influenced by Jack and his opinions a lot - and I have to admit I found this particularly annoying in this re-read. 

But, otherwise, I love this book. Sam is very likable, she's a good friend and loves her dog and eventually she does learn to see what's in front of her. 

Bottom LineAll-American Girl  is definitely a feel good book, but you do have to be prepared to be patient with Sam. Other than that, this book has lots of cute, funny moments. 

May 25, 2012

List Maniac #27: My Top Five Favorite Cabot Girls

Hello everyone!! This is my first stop for Meg-A-Readers Blog Hop. As soon as I knew this was going to happen I knew I had to participate as I've been a Meg Cabot Fan Girl for a really, really long time.

There are many reasons why I love Meg's books: they are funny and sweet and awesome. But, even better than that, her heroines are awesome - plus, she does have some very yummy guys in her pantheon of heroes. 

Meg has written a wild variety of girls and women in her many, many books, and each one of them has her own personality and flaws and neurosis but they are all smart, confident and brave when they need be, and passionate about something other than boys. They all have strong opinions about this passion, and though I might not always agree with them, I've always been able to respect and love them for it.

So, for my first stop of the tour I decided to put together a List of my Top 5 Favorite Girls/Women from Meg's World. 

Special Mention/Runner Up/ Top 6 Just Doesn't have the same right to it:
Lucy Madison (All American Girl/Ready Or Not).  
I love Lucy, I can't help it. I know she's not the protagonist of All American Girl but I love her. She's every bit everything Annoying Older Sisters are (and I would know, I got one of those) but at the same time she's incredibly loyal to her sisters, is there when they need her - even if she always tries to put her own spin on things - and she's fun. She's the kind of girl whom you write off as being superficial, but then she surprises you with her hidden depths even though she's still essentially whom she has always been. 

5. Lou Calabrese (She Went All The Way)
After being left by her long time boyfriend -who then went up and married in the middle of a press-frenzy - Lou isn't exactly ready to trust love again, but when love does happen - even if it is with her sometime nemesis - she lets herself go there (even if it isn't the smoothest rode ever). Also, I love that she loves movies - all kinds of movies - and always finds a movie reference to apply to what's going on in her life. 

4. Mia Thermopolis (Princess Diaries)
I had to put Mia, she was the first Cabot Girl I got to know and for that alone she'll always have a special place in my heart. But I'm not going to lie, sometimes Mia isn't the easiest person to like - she gets in her head a lot, and has a tendency for the dramatic - but, in the end, she always does the right thing and comes off better for all her trouble. I loved seeing her grow up through the course of the 10 books that made the PD series. And her love for all things nature and animals? I loved that too. 

3. Heather Wells (Heather Wells' Mysteries)
Heather is the one of two"grown up" Meg's heroines to make the list. One of the things I love the most about heather - other than her acknowledgement that Size 12 is not Fat - is that she has an incredible ability to pick herself up after she has been down, to let go of things in her past - like her mom running off with all her money - and not be overly bitter about it. She does tend to fling herself into danger sometimes, but she means well, and usually manages to save the day. 

2. Jess Mastriani (1-800-Where-R-You)

Jess is tough as nails and she's not going to let you forget it! Having grown up getting into fights to defend her older brother Douglas, Jess is a bit of a tomboy and a whole lot of trouble, but she loves her family - even if her mom can be a bit judgmental from time to time, and she does make Jess wear awful dresses - and she's smart, self-reliant yet not afraid to ask for help. A little free with her fists, she does always try to do what's right, and even if she never quite believes her 'gift' to find missing people is such big gift at all, she tries to help people with it. 

1. Suze Simon (Mediator)

What there is not to love about Suze? She's one kick-ass girl and with a great sense of fashion. At the beginning of the Mediator Series, she's not happy to be moving from New York to California, but she does it in the name of her mom's happiness, and she grows to love her new family, particularly her youngest step-brother David.Suze has always been my favorite heroine, and the one I identify with the most - I'm still not sure why, maybe because, other than being a liaison between the living and the dead, she's a pretty normal girl. Again, she's a very loyal person and loves fiercely. Plus, I love that she's sarcastic and tough but, much like Jess, she has a soft center. 

So, those are my favorite girls, what about you guys? who's your favorite heroine of Meg's world?

May 24, 2012

Speed Date: Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn

Original Cover (Love it!)
The Deal: Victoria Lyndon met Robert Kemble, Lord Macclesfield when she was just 17 years old and he 24, and they fell madly in love with each other.The only problem was that she was a vicar's daughter and he a young earl, and that both their fathers disapproved of the match.

Eventually, Robert and Victoria planned on running away together, but a few twists of fate - and their parents' interference- tore them apart, and each of them left believing the other had betrayed them.

Seven years later, they run into each other once more, and both of them are more than a little bitter about what they think was the other's deception. But when the truth comes out, Robert will do everything in his power to set things to rights and be with the only woman he has ever loved.

My Thoughts: Everything and the Moon is probably one of my favorite books by Julia Quinn. I love both Robert and Victoria and their story. They are both very likable characters and I like the way they deal with the stuff that happens to them. 

Current less Awesome Cover  
Plus, this is one of the few stories I've read where the Big Misunderstanding plot-device actually works. And then they both have to work to put things back to rights - Robert goes to great lengths in order to prove to her that really did love her, and loves her still, and Victoria needs to learn to trust again. 

Any way, this is one of those books that gives me warm fuzzies every time I read it.
starstarstarstarPersonal Favorite

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

May 23, 2012

Book Review: The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine by Jayne Fresina

At First Sight: After a scandal 10 years before, and accident that left her with a scar on her face, an having been exasperated beyond imagining by her sister in law Lavinia, Sophie Valentine decides to take desperate measures and writes an add to the Farmer's Gazette, advertising for a husband. 

Later, her temper cools and she kind of forgets about it, until Lazarus Kane shows up on her doorstep, saying that he has come to marry Sophie. 

No one is happy to discover what Sophie has done as it just hints to another scandal. But Lazarus won't be persuaded from going after Sophie, as they get to know each other and start to fal in love. 

Things get complicated when Sophie's former suitor, James, decides to come back for her - 10 years after he original both proposed to Sophie and ruined her. Plus, Lazarus has many secrets of his own, which might threaten his future with Sophie. 

Second Glance: I really wanted to like The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine, I swear, because, really, the idea of her putting an add on the paper looking for a husband sounded like so much fun, but the book wasn't what I expected. 

While I liked the characters -even if Sophie takes forever to make up her mind - I felt the plot was too convoluted and contrived, and some characters actions just didn't make sense sometimes.

Like, for example, the whole first chapter with the origins of Sophie's first scandal? for me, both things she does in that chapter (one of them being letting her suitor, James, 'make love' to her - and in a rather public place- when she wasn't in love with him nor particularly wanted to marry him) made little-to-not sense to me at all.

Bottom Line: Basically, I think that a simpler plot would have beneficed this story a great deal because, as I said, flawed as the characters were, they had their charm. This book will be released on June 1st, 2012.

May 22, 2012

Book Review: Once Upon a List by Robin Gold

At First Sight: Clara Black had a perfect life: a job she enjoyed, a fiance, Sebastian, that she loved and a wonderful family. But when Sebastian dies in a car accident just 10 days before their wedding, Clara falls into the depths of dispair, pushing everyone and everything away for months and months. 

It all comes to a head when she's forced to visit her mother and brother, Leo, over Thanksgiving; and they are shocked to see the changes in her: her constant gloomy mood, her dramatic weight lost, and her lack of will to live. 

Having tried all types of therapy before, Clara latches unto an un-usual road map to recovery when she finds a list of things she wanted to do before she turned 35, which had been buried in a time capsule when she was in the 5th grade and which was recently returned to her by her former teacher. 

The list reminds her of the woman she once wanted to be, and with less than a year to go to her birthday, she thinks that maybe that woman will show her the way out of her all-consuming grief. So, with the aid of her mother and brother, Clara stars to cross off items. 

First she kisses her fifth grade crush, then she gets Milk Dud - the one eared dog wonder - and, as she goes about the items on her list, she reconnects with Lincoln, an old childhood friend with whom she was very close until he moved away when they were in their teens.

Lincoln knows her, and understands her - having gone through his own personal tragedies - and in him, Clara finds worlds of comfort. And, as Clara re-joins the living, she realizes that maybe her heart didn't die when Sebastian did. 

Second Glance: Once Upon a List starts with quite a punch, and I confess I was crying a little within the first couple of chapters, because when grief hits Clara, you feel the punch. 

In fact, the first third of the book is rather gloomy, and it even gets to be slow. And that was probably my main problem with this book. The first part of it, when Clara is still all gloom and doom seems to take forever, until her quest and her recovery speeds up and then it goes a bit fast (at least the months seem to go by pretty fast). 

That and the fact that Clara goes to a very cruel place when she's hurting and she says really mean things to people she loves. I understood that at the beginning, but after a while it just seemed mean when it happened. 

Otherwise, I thought it was a good book. I liked Leo and Libby - Clara's brother and mom - and Clara's memories of her childhood, her list of things to do was pretty awesome. And I really liked Lincoln. 

And I'll admit I REALLY liked the ending. 

Bottom Line: With it's ups and downs, I really liked Once Upon a List. I think this is a story that accurately shows that grief can make a monster out of people, but that eventually you gotta pick yourself up and move on. Other than minor problems with the pacing, I really liked the writing and I look forward to reading more by this author.

May 21, 2012

Book Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

UK Cover (Which I got!)
Warning: This review contains spoilers about previous books of the Gallagher Girls series. 

At First Sight: Waking up at an alpine convent was not how Cammie Morgan thought her summer would end, and the fact that she can't remember exactly what she did in between leaving the Gallagher Academy at the beginning of summer and waking up in the convent in the early fall, isn't helping at all.

A spy with amnesia makes everyone nervous, and Cammie's family and friends aren't the exception. Particularly because even being back at the academy, surrounded by everyone she loves isn't helping her feel any better, any more like her pre-Summer self. 

Cammie knows that what she was looking for was important, and that she was really close to finding it and that she really, really needs to know what "it" was. 

But most of all, she needs to know she'll be herself again, someday.

Second GlanceOut of Sight, Out of Time is the fifth book in the Gallagher Girl series and I got to say that this series is still has my full attention. 

This book is a little different from the others though, mostly because there aren't as many 'fun' moments in it, it goes to darker places than the previous books. But I like that, as Cammie and her friends grow up, they start to realize that spying isn't a game they are playing, that there are real consequences to their choices - good or bad - and that sometimes saying you're sorry isn't enough. 

US Cover (not a fave)

Also, this book is MOSTLY all about Cammie, I really felt like Liz and Macey fell a lot to the background, as did Zach, but not as much as the other two. The one who didn't was Bex, but that was mostly because she was being a bitch though roughly the first half of the book - and I really didn't like her in this book, she's quick to believe the worse of the people she loves and that irks me. 

Anyway, plenty of characters that I love are back - like Abby and even Agent Townsend (who grew on me a lot). 

Bottom Line: While Out of Sight, Out of Time is far from being my favorite book in the series, I think it was needed to move things forward and I'm really looking forward to reading book six.